Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 10/30/01 | Genre: Strategy
Civ III was pretty much destined to be a winner from the start. When you consider that its predecessors are among the finest titles a PC gamer could own, it seems only natural that the latest incarnation would easily maintain that level of excellence. I figured a grade of B would be the worst I could give the game before I even opened the box. After all if Sid Meier felt it was good enough to bear his name, it has to be good enough to steal at least a couple of hours a night from me. Doesn't it?
If you've played Civ II you already know what the game is all about. You select a famous leader from one of the great nations history has to offer. Playing as that leader you try to guide your people to become the most dominant civilization technologically, militarily, and culturally on your planet. Maybe you'd care to play as Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth or Abraham Lincoln. With sixteen different leaders to choose from you'll find plenty of nations with which you can experiment. Each has its own strengths so you can select the civilization that best suits your chosen path to victory.
Once you take over the reigns of your nation, you'll begin to lay the groundwork for global domination. Selecting a lucrative site on which to build your capital city is a big decision. Next you'll need to build roads around your city. Roads increase the tax money you'll collect from that city as well as making travel for your units easier. You'll also need to build a military unit or two to defend the city from barbarian attacks and your rival nations. After securing the capital, you will need to build settlers. Settlers will found new cities so you'll be able to collect even more tax money. I'll explain why you need so much money in a moment.
Managing your cities in Civ III will be very familiar to vets. You still need to tell your citizens where to work in order to get the most out of your resources. You still have to balance your food production so your city will grow while still harvesting the most shields possible. Shields still determine how fast your city builds everything from soldiers to wonders. Keeping your citizens happy is still a priority. Doing so will keep the city running smoothly and the tax money flowing. You can turn control of the city over to the highly customizable governor, of course. Doing so can ease the pressure of constantly micromanaging numerous cities.
Okay now to the money. Why do you need so much? Everything costs money to maintain. Buildings in your cities can pile up the expenses in a hurry (especially the buildings that don't help your economy). Should you find the need to "hurry" production on a unit or building, you better have plenty of cash reserves. And then there's the issue of spending money on science. Science is what causes your civilization to advance. For instance, you can't build swordsmen until you learn the secrets of iron building, which you can't learn until you understand bronze working. Without a healthy science budget you'll fall behind your rivals in technology. Think it's not important? You'll change your mind the first time your lowly warriors get overrun early in the game by an army of horsemen and archers.
So far everything sounds the same as Civ II doesn't it. Well naturally much of the game IS the same. There are some differences though. The first thing you'll like notice is the cultural aspect of the game. It's a little complicated to explain here but it allows you to employ some new strategies. You can now win by amassing a monstrous culture rating. Also, as a city's culture increases so does its influence over the surrounding area. This means your nation's boundaries can extend far beyond the bounds of your city walls.
Another nice little addition is colonies. No longer do you have to build a whole city in the jungle to capitalize on that valuable pocket of silk. I also like the fact that certain units require access to raw materials before you can produce them. For instance, no horsemen can be built until you can find a herd of horses and no swordsmen until you find some iron deposits.
The trade system now is sooooo much easier than in the old game. No more of those stupid little caravans that take forever to get to a city on the other side of the map. Now you can simply negotiate a trade deal with any nation to which you are connected in some manner (road, port).
It seems to me that this game took some of the useful elements (like worker automation and nation-specific traits) from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and incorporated them into the Civilization universe. There has been some tweaking in the scientific advances and strength of military units. A new "Great Leader" feature will allow you to command multiple units as one powerful army that moves together and shares hit points.
The new features and balances will give gamers that all-important feeling that this Civ is better than the last one. Vets will not be disappointed in the least since you pretty much already know what you're getting before you ever plunk down your cash. Newcomers will find out what has made the series and its creator a legend. The game is easy to get started and generally takes a few hours before your inexperience catches up with you. So you start over. A little wiser and more determined to succeed. Though you have no idea why, you're already hooked.
I gave Civilization III an A-. It is hardly a graphics bonanza. But who cares. It is yet another PC sequel. But who cares. The game is fiendishly addictive. You will fall into the "one more turn" trap that has swallowed us all at some point. When you get the game, especially if you're a newcomer, you might want to tell your boss you'll be out of town for a week or so. Otherwise, you'll be using your lunch break to catch up on some lost sleep. Excuse me while I go take a nap...